Q: "Want to buy a new plasma but don't know that the face of plasma has changed with the withdraw of two of its top players need some advice plasma or LCD?"
-- George Carter, via e-mail.
A: Well George, personally I think there's no reason to avoid buying plasma just because Pioneer and Vizio dropped out.
In case you haven't heard, dear reader, George is referring to announcements by Pioneer and Vizio, two companies from the high end and the low end of the plasma market, respectively. Both will no longer produce plasma TVs. Last week comments by an LG exec sparked speculation that that company was next to drop plasma, although a company press release says otherwise, stating that LG will continue with its 2009 plasma releases, including the PS80 series that we selected as a Best of CES finalist.
Despite seemingly dire news for plasma, we expect LG, Samsung and especially Panasonic to sell a lot of plasmas in 2009. And I'll feel perfectly comfortable continuing to recommend people buy them, assuming they score well in reviews.
Plasma is not dead yet.
Even if it was, George, and 2009 marked the last year for the flat-panel TV technology, there's no reason not to buy one anyway. Manufacturers will continue to stand behind their products, and of course the "obsolete" and "dead" HDTVs will continue to produce beautiful pictures--just ask owners of all those "dead" Pioneer Kuros.
In fact, with the introduction of new 1080p NeoPDP plasmas by Panasonic, which promise better black levels than ever in combination with improved energy efficiency, we see no reason why the technology won't do well, especially among savvy enthusiasts. Even the entry-level entry-level 720p TC-X1 series Panasonic models are quite compelling, currently selling for as low as $800 for a 42-inch version and $950 for the 50-incher and, if last year's PX80 series is any indication, delivering great bang-for-the-buck. Ultimately, if anything can save plasma, it will be competitive pricing.
Samsung and LG, the other two plasma nameplates remaining in the U.S., also performed well last year in our tests, and for 2009 both bring some new innovations, like improved adjust-ability and Netflix streaming for LG, and an inch-thin panel, among other improvements, for Samsung.
Call me a plasma booster, but I hope the technology continues to improve and offer an alternative to LCD for years to come. I've consistently found that the best plasmas outperform the best LCDs in side-by-side comparisons, making them the de-facto choice for buyers whose primary concern is getting the best picture for the money. Check out our flat-panel comparison for all the details, and stay tuned in the next days and weeks as we review the 2009 plasma (and LCD) TVs starting to hit store shelves.